WASHINGTON, DC—The National Anti- Quartering Association, America's foremost Third Amendment rights group, held its annual gala in Washington Monday to honor 191 consecutive years of advocating the protection of private homes and property against the unlawful boarding of military personnel.
"This is a proud day for quarters-owners everywhere," said the organization's president, Charles Davison, in his keynote address. "Year after year, we have sent a loud and clear message to the federal government and to anyone else who would attack our unassailable rights: Hands off our cottages, livery stables, and haylofts."
The NAQA was created in 1816 in response to repeated violations of the Third Amendment during the War of 1812. The organization quickly grew in influence and cites its vigilance as the primary reason why the amendment has only been litigated once in a federal court since the Bill of Rights was ratified. The organization is also arguably the country's most powerful political lobby; every politician elected since 1866 has fully supported Third Amendment rights.
"The framers of the Constitution provided the American people with the right to have their homes free of troops unless Congress mandates otherwise during a time of war," Davison said. "Thanks to our tireless efforts, six generations of civilians have never known the cruelty and duress of quartering unruly foot soldiers."
Davison recalled the "dark days" of 1982, when the federal case of Engblom v. Carey threatened to strip Americans of their fundamental Third Amendment freedoms. The ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that the State of New York had indeed violated the Third Amendment rights of the plaintiffs. The case, according to Davison, was "a chilling reminder of how even an established 200-year-old right hangs by a slender thread."
"I don't think people fully understand how close we came to completely losing such a basic right," Davison said. "If the Second Circuit had ruled otherwise, we'd be living in a world in which soldiers would be quartering amok upon our very hearthstones."
Davison expressed pride in the NAQA's grassroots involvement at the local level, citing the association's direct-mailing campaigns and its fully staffed regional centers where citizens can report Third Amendment rights abuses. The NAQA also holds quartering-safety seminars for citizens interested in learning how to effectively defend their households against U.S. troops seeking shelter.
Davison reiterated the organization's promise to oppose pro-quartering legislation should any ever be proposed.
"Keep the fat hands of soldiers out of America's larders!" Davison said to rousing applause. He was quoting the NAQA's familiar slogan, which can be found on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and other merchandise sold on the group's website.
Davison ended his address by warning of the dangers of the NAQA resting on its laurels.
"Pro-quartering advocates are waiting for just the right moment to stick a bunch of troops in our homes," Davison said. "Well, I say to them that we will never allow this to happen. You can count on the true patriots of the NAQA to ensure that no chickens and livestock will be appropriated, and private stores of salt, brandy, candles, and vinegar will stay firmly where they belong: in civilian hands."
The NAQA is known for its quick and aggressive mobilization when it believes Third Amendment rights are at risk, and has rushed to the defense of homeowners it believes are being illegally coerced into housing American soldiers. Last month, 200 NAQA members marched on a private residence in Fairfax, VA after receiving a tip that the owners were being victimized by three Navy seamen demanding prolonged quartering. They ended their demonstration, however, when it was discovered that the sailors were brothers on shore leave visiting their parents.
Davison, 49, has headed the NAQA since January, replacing longtime president Lawrence Frost. Frost, 58, left the organization to chair the Citizens Committee for the Right to Drink, a 21st Amendment rights group committed to the continued legal status of alcohol for Americans of drinking age.